Underwater Eden illustrates the untold success story of ocean conservation in Kiribati


With World’s Corals in Crisis, Underwater Eden Reveals an inspiring behind-the-scenes look at the establishment of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area to protect the last coral wilderness on Earth

Arlington, Va. – The behind-the-scenes story of the creation of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), a marine protected area larger than the State of California in the waters of the Pacific island nation of Kiribati, is being told for the first time with the publication this month of Underwater Eden: Saving the Last Coral Wilderness on Earth by the University of Chicago Press and the New England Aquarium.

The visually stunning book, edited by Dr. Greg S. Stone, Executive Vice President and Chief Ocean Scientist at Conservation International and senior vice president at the New England Aquarium, and David Obura, founding director of the nonprofit research organization  Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean (CORDIO) and Adjunct Senior Scientist at New England Aquarium, tells the story of how they used cutting-edge science and developed innovative partnerships between conservationists, business interests, and governments to succeed in establishing the marine protected area. 

“The establishment of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area was by no means straight forward,” said His Excellency President Anote Tong of the Republic of Kiribati. “Dr. Stone and Dr. Obura are able to vibrantly illustrate the biodiversity which is unique to our waters, and impress upon the reader the urgent need we had to save it.”

The government of Kiribati established PIPA in 2006 and when it was expanded to its current size, 408,205 square kilometers, in 2008, making it the world’s largest marine protected area at the time. Then in 2010, because of its pristine nature, importance as a migration route, and reservoir as one of the world's largest intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems with 14 known underwater sea mounts, nearly 200 coral species, 500 fish species, 18 marine mammals and 44 bird species, PIPA was named a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In Underwater Eden, over 80 photographs by renowned underwater photographers like National Geographic photographers Brian Skerry and Paul Nicklen , take readers underneath the surface of this central Pacific jewel, and reveal the globally diverse biodiversity that supports the food security, climate security, health and livelihoods of people.  They also illustrate the story of the incredible comeback of the corals in the protected area following a devastating bleaching event in 2002-2003, which was caused by warming waters. 

“David and I want readers to see what we saw on our first dive in the Phoenix Islands – specifically that diving here is what it would have been like to dive in the ocean thousands of years ago,” Stone said. “We also want the story of PIPA to spread so it can inspire others to take charge as stewards of their own particular set of ocean.”

Stone added, “The success of this protected area has sparked other Pacific Islands governments to take action. From the Cook Islands, to New Caledonia and even in the U.S., there have continued and growing commitment to protecting and restoring ocean resources.”

“What we see in the Phoenix Islands was hope,” Obura said. “While other parts of the ocean suffered the Phoenix Islands were supporting healthy corals and abundant fish populations and we are determined to keep it that way. It has been no easy task and the story isn’t over.”

All of the proceeds from the sale of Underwater Eden: Saving the Last Coral Wilderness on Earth will go to the PIPA Trust for the continued growth and maintenance of the protected area. The book is available for pre-sale now on Amazon.com . It was edited by Dr. Greg S. Stone and Dr. David Obura. Contributing authors were:  Christopher Pala, Dr. Gerald R. Allen, Steven L. Bailey, Dr. Raymond J. Pierce, Mary Jane Adams, M.D., Dr. Randi D. Rotjan, Robert Barrel, Eduard Niesten, Peter Shelley, Sue Miller-Taei, Tukabu Teroroko and Heather Tausig, with a forward by His Excellency Te Beretitenti the Honorable President Anote Tong. For more information, visit http://www.phoenixislands.org/.  

Underwater Eden is Available for Pre-Order at Amazon.com now!

“From the air, the Phoenix Islands are tiny, low, remote, easily overlooked scraps of land in the Pacific Ocean. Underwater, they are the ocean’s equivalent of Amazon rainforests, teeming with tropical corals, fish, and sharks. But those species are under increasing assault from fishing boats, climate change, and introduced species. This remarkable book tells the story of ongoing imaginative efforts to create a huge protected area in a biological treasure-house.”
Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel
Underwater Eden tells the story of how a very small group of exceptionally passionate people can—and did—accomplish something truly spectacular. They worked for years to protect the last virgin chain of unexplored coral reef islands in the world. It’s a story of tremendous vision and dedication. And success.”
Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean

“If you have a passion for the oceans and care about conservation, read this remarkable book on innovative research, exploration and the preservation of a vast remote coral archipelago in the South Pacific.”
Harrison Ford, actor and vice chair of Conservation International

Available content for media (***Please Provide Image Credits***)
Photographs Available for download by media, here.

Learn more at: 
Phoenix Islands Protected Area: http://www.phoenixislands.org/ 
Conservation International:  www.conservation.org/Phoenix-Islands


For more information, contact:
Levi Stahl, Promotions Director, The University of Chicago Press
Office +1 773 702 0289 / lstahl@press.uchicago.edu

Tony LaCasse, Media Relations Director, New England Aquarium 
Office +1 617-877-6871 / tlacasse@neaq.org

Kevin Connor, Media Manager, Conservation International 
Office +1 703 341 2405/ mobile +1 571 232 0455/ kconnor@conservation.org 

Note to editors:
About Phoenix Islands Protected Area Conservation Trust
The Phoenix Islands Protected Area Conservation Trust (PIPA Trust) is a not-for-profit non-governmental organization (NGO) established under the laws of the Republic of Kiribati. Its primary objective is to provide long-term sustainable financing for the conservation of terrestrial and marine biodiversity in the Phoenix Islands group. This will allow Kiribati to create the PIPA for the benefit of future generations of Kiribati citizens and the world without producing negative impacts on current national expenditures for health, education, and social welfare.  

About New England Aquarium
The New England Aquarium is redefining what it means to be an aquarium: combining education, entertainment, and action to address the most challenging problems facing the oceans. We are a global leader in ocean exploration and marine conservation and are the only Boston-based cultural institution with a mission focused primarily on the environment. For more information, please visit www.neaq.org.

About Conservation International (CI)
Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the long term well-being of people. Founded in 1987 and marking its 25th anniversary in 2012, CI has headquarters in the Washington DC area, and 900 employees working in nearly 30 countries on four continents, plus 1,000+ partners around the world.  For more information, please visit at www.conservation.org, or on Facebook or Twitter.